As a graduate student, I enrolled in an investigative reporting class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This class was a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and WCIJ Managing Editor Dee Hall was the instructor. As part of the course, students embarked on a roughly six-month long investigation into a topic of the WCIJ’s choosing. The final stories would be featured in a series on the outlet’s website. The theme in spring 2018 was “Undemocratic: Secrecy and power vs. the people of Wisconsin.”
I reported on Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting, which at the time, was being questioned as a partisan gerrymander in the Supreme Court case, Gill v. Whitford. At the time, if the Supreme Court ruled on the case, the results would have been a landmark for redistricting across the country.
The class involved traditional learning on investigative reporting, writing, and good journalism. But it also taught invaluable research skills, and every class we had the chance to take what we learned and apply it to our own investigations. It also allowed me to be a part of reporting on an issue of national importance: redistricting has a powerful impact on the outcome of elections, and it’s still a contested issue today. As part of my reporting, I dug through government and court documents, amicus briefs, and redistricting history. I conducted interviews with legal experts, lawyers, politicians, and activists. Our reporting underwent rigorous peer editing, and the experience culminated in a fact-check—mine encompassed hundreds of pages of research and took roughly twelve hours.
In the end, I produced two written pieces for the WCIJ: “Public, politicians pushing Wisconsin to enact nonpartisan redistricting to strengthen democracy,” and “High stakes for elections—and democracy—as U.S. Supreme Court nears decision on Wisconsin redistricting case.”
Read “High stakes for elections—and democracy—as U.S. Supreme Court nears decision on Wisconsin redistricting case.” Then, read “Public, politicians pushing Wisconsin to enact nonpartisan redistricting to strengthen democracy.”
Photo credit: Cameron Smith/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism